Iceland Trip: Westfjords, Snaefellsnes and the Golden Circle

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Finally, here’s the third part of our Iceland trip! I’ve really changed my mindset about this blog. I now use it as a journal rather than a blog so I feel absolutely no pressure to write articles and I only do so when I feel like it. The past few months have been super busy – in a good way! – so I haven’t really been thinking about Candidly Julie. However, today I was feeling this urge to write about our trip, so I decided to (finally) post the third part of our trip in Iceland. We’re actually starting to think about the next trip we’re going to do, but we have no idea where we’ll go yet. One thing for sure, we want to do something adventurous again!

This third part of our trip covers the Westfjords, Sneafellsnes and the Golden Circle, three very different but equally beautiful parts of Iceland.

First off, after Lake Myvatn, we headed for the Westfjords. We were very excited about this part of the trip since most people don’t adventure into the Westfjords – I think only 4% or so of visitors do. The drive to Isafjordur, the Northern capital of Iceland, was very lengthy since there are no bridges/tunnels or in-land roads in the fjords (it’s too mountainous) and therefore we had to drive around the each fjord which takes a few hours. However, Isafjordur is stunning and worth the drive.

I have a funny story about this town – in fact we still laugh about it! I was the one driving when we got into Isafjordur and I had written down the name of a well-rated restaurant, Tjoruhusid, where I wanted us to go to. We didn’t have wifi at that point, so we were trying to figure out where the restaurant was with the map. I drove to the tip of the town near the water (it seemed like the restaurant was in that area), but I ended up driving the car into the marina. We both looked at each other like “oh boy, it clearly isn’t here”. However, instead of doing the smart thing, which was to head back to where we came from, I decided to continue on the road, thinking that we could go around the marina and back on the road. I ended up at a dead-end, but I could see an opening that looked like a an alley big enough for cars that went back into the town, so I started driving through it. However, we quickly realized that I had driven right onto the restaurant’s front lawn!!!! They had this cute path set up for their clients in between the two buildings of the property and I was right on it with the car!!! The server came out of the restaurant, looked right at me, and I could see he was like “what are they doing??” I felt awful, but we were so tired of the drive that we just started laughing and we couldn’t stop. Once again, instead of driving back, I just continued, drove up onto the sidewalk, and back into the parking lot where I parked the car. We stepped out, still laughing hysterically, walked to the restaurant, went inside, looked at the server: “table for two please”. He looked at us and said “this is a five stars restaurant – I don’t think you’re at the right place”. Oooops! I guess we didn’t make a great first impression hahah. That said, the restaurant was amazing – next time I go though, I’ll make sure not to drive on their front lawn before I park the car.

After the restaurant, we walked a little bit around town. We were the only ones in the streets since it was late. At some point, I look up to the sky and here it was; the northern lights. That evening couldn’t have been more perfect. So perfect that I don’t have any pictures of our stay in Isafjordur except of the drive on the way there as well as one of the restaurant. Speaking of the drive, we saw a seal!! I was so excited. I immediately had to stop on the side of the road and we ran to the water. He/she was so cute!

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After Isafjordur, we headed to the Latrabjarg cliffs. Apparently, on a clear day, you can even see Greenland from there! We felt so remote from the rest of the world, which was pretty cool. It was so pretty that I didn’t want to leave. Xavier had to pretend he would throw my selfie stick in the water if I didn’t start walking back to the car.

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After the cliffs, we headed out of the Westfjords to go to the Hotel Husafell to celebrate my 24th birthday. The hotel was breathtaking – I would definitely go back. The restaurant had amazing food and we finally ate lamb! There was also an outdoor spa with heated pools where we relaxed before dinner.

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On my birthday, we headed to Snaefellsnes where we finally saw the Kirkjufell mountain! I was so excited about it since it was my computer wallpaper all summer at work. As a little surprise, Xavier got me a lamb (no, not a real one) since I kept talking about how cute they were for the entire trip 🙂 I couldn’t resist taking a picture with them in front of Kirkjufell! Later that day, we also visited a glacier. However, we couldn’t adventure that far since we didn’t have a guide and obviously we didn’t want to fall down a crevasse.

Since we were there on my birthday night, we decided to go to a hostel in the town near by to hang out, which turned out to be such a good idea! We met Europeans, other Montrealers as well as people from Bangladesh and India. They were all hilarious! We spent the evening making fun of each other (cause why not), cooking food, playing music and talking.

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Finally, we ended this incredible trip with the Golden Circle. This was by far the most touristy area of Iceland since it’s close to Reykjavik. However, it’s still very much worth it, especially for the Geysir and the Gullfoss waterfall.

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This trip was simply incredible and I can’t wait for us to travel again 🙂

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From Southern Iceland to Lake Myvatn

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On our third day we woke up in a very sunny Vik, a charming town on the South coast of Iceland, and drove to the shore where we saw hundreds of puffins! So many that we were both wearing our hoodies in case they pooped on us… 🙂 I fell in love with that part of Iceland with its many sheep and beautiful sceneries. I kept saying that I wanted a cottage in the area. That said, I quickly realized I wanted a cottage in every single part of Iceland…

On our way to the shore, we drove next to a sheep on the side of the road. I thought he was so cute, so we stopped to take pictures, and another couple clearly had the same idea since they had also stopped. However, the sheep kept “screaming” at us, as if he was trying to communicate something. We realized that all of the other sheep were within the fences and somehow he had escaped. We figured out how to open the fence, and when we did he just ran inside and jumped all over his friends! It was the cutest thing. We were so glad we stopped. 🙂

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After Vik, we drove along the South coast to go to Fjadrarglijufur, an insanely beautiful canyon. I had seen many pictures of it, but it’s nothing like seeing it in real life. When we got there it was sunny, but it turned cloudy pretty quickly and we ended up being caught by the rain. Even then, the scenery was beautiful and I was able to take the picture at the top of this post and that’s the result without any filters! It looked exactly like that in real life, which was pretty amazing. In the end, this was a highlight of our trip.

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In the afternoon, we drove to the Skaftafell visitor center for a three hour hike to go see Svatifoss and Sjonarnipa. On the route to Svatifoss there were a lot of people, but passed that point we only saw 8 people for the next 2 hours! It was a great feeling to be surrounded by such beautiful nature, and the view of the glacier when we arrived at the top was incredible!

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Towards the end of the hike it started raining, but we were fully equipped for it! That’s something we learned earlier on during our trip: always be prepared for any kind of weather in Iceland. After the hike, we still had to drive 3 hours to get to Hofn for the night. We were caught in the rain quite a bit throughout that drive, but overall it went well and we got to see some incredible sceneries. We even stopped at the unique glacier lagoon Jokulsarlon, as you can see below. The picture is pretty bad since it was cold and rainy, so we didn’t stay outside very long. However, it was a pretty magical sight. Overall, that day turned out to be one of my favorites of the trip, even with the showers! And when we finally got to Hofn, it was snowing! We couldn’t believe it – we didn’t expect Iceland to be so cold at that time of the year. I had to put on a lot of layers that night to be able to sleep comfortably!

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The next day, we started our most intense driving day of the entire trip. We drove about 8 hours, so needless to say we were pretty happy when we arrived to Lake Myvatn right on time for the sunset at around 9:30pm.

To my surprise, an hour after we left Hofn, we saw some red mountains that I had seen so many pictures of! Even though we had a lot of driving to do, I knew we had to stop there. It was an impromptu stop that turned out to be fantastic. After visiting the canyon, we ate some delicious ramen (our on-repeat meal) surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. It’s one of those moments I hope to never forget! Aren’t these unplanned moments the best? 🙂

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Here are some pictures on the way to Myvatn…

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When we finally arrived, we rewarded ourselves with a spa evening at Myvatn Baths, a beautiful lagoon where the water is around 35 to 40 degrees celsius. I cannot recommend this lagoon enough, and going at sunset was a brilliant idea. Being in the warm water while watching the sun go down with moon-like surroundings is pretty incredible. I don’t have any pictures since we just wanted to enjoy ourselves without having to worry about taking pictures, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. 🙂

Finally, we arrived at the campsite around midnight and settled in for the night. We cooked some pasta in the shared kitchen and met two really nice guys from England. However, people were being too loud in the kitchen so the owner, a tall old man, came in and told everyone to leave and go back to their tents. Xavier and I were disappointed because we still hadn’t eaten and our food was not ready. But as everyone was leaving, the man came toward us and whispered that we could stay! We were so happy! We got the shared kitchen just for the two of us, and had a romantic meal of pasta with tomato sauce. 🙂 Thank you mystery old man.

That night, it was so cold in Lake Myvatn that I couldn’t sleep. It must have been around -10 degrees celsius! Xavier had a warmer sleeping bag than mine so he gave it to me and I finally fell asleep. He’s just the best. 🙂

The next morning, we explored the Lake Myvatn area. It’s a pretty surreal place, and it really does look like the moon! We did not get lucky from a weather perspective, but at least it did not rain! Here are some pictures…

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Stay tuned for the third part of our trip! 🙂

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Iceland Trip: From Reykjavik to Vik

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On August 26th, Xavier and I embarked on an adventure through Iceland. Compared to the Europe trip I did the year before, I made sure to plan to a minimum so that it would be more spontaneous. I’m so happy I did! It was so fun to explore things more freely and to just follow whatever we wanted to do at that moment.

We started our adventure in Reykjavik, the capital and largest city of Iceland with a population of 130,000 people.  As you may already know, Iceland is not very populated with a total population of 330,000 people, but what you may not know is that there are 800,000 sheeps! So you are more likely to come across a sheep than a human.

Even with its small size, Reykjavik is a beautiful city bustling with life. Since we arrived very early in the morning in Iceland, around 4:30am, we really got a full day in the capital. We dropped our bags at Heida’s Home, the inn we stayed in which was very comfortable and welcoming, and we started walking around. Because it’s small, it’s quite easy to visit all the main sites in 1 or 2 days.

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We started by Harpa, a beautiful conference center that opened in 2011. The architecture is incredible, as you can see in the pictures below. I was really blown away by it! Since we arrived so early in Reykjavik, we got to Harpa at around 8:30am, so the center was very quiet with only a few other people there. It was fun to visit at such a quiet time – we felt like we had the place to ourselves. We found a couch in a hidden corner of the center with a huge window that looked over the water and the mountains surrounding the city, and we just hung out there for awhile. It was nice to finally relax after the long night we had!

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In the afternoon, the sky cleared up, and we went to Hallgrimskirkja Church, an impressive monument that looks over the city of Reykjavik. It was beautiful to see the city from above with all the colourful houses. I wish Montreal had this – it would be so pretty during the winter.

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After the church visit, we finally had access to our hotel so we enjoyed a long nap before going out at night. I worked all day before jumping on the plane to Reykjavik, so I hadn’t slept in 36 hours and the adrenaline was starting to ware off, so it felt good to sleep for a couple of hours. At night, we found a pub downtown Reykjavik where we listened to a live band. I have to say that although Reykjavik is a small city, the night life was really fun! Tons of people are out on the street, in bars and in pubs and everyone is in a festive mood. We actually met a couple from Reykjavik at a pub and hung out with them. They were super friendly and welcoming and even gave us tips about travelling around Iceland. It was the perfect first night!

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The next morning, we took the Flybus back to the airport to pick up our car. We were so excited to get on the road, but also a little bit nervous since we both don’t have much experience driving. I’ve been living in Montreal for five years and I go everywhere with public transportation so I almost never drive and Xavier got his driver’s licence this summer, just before the trip. So needless to say we were hoping the roads wouldn’t be too challenging to drive on!

As for the car, I took a lot of time last winter to research the best option for us. We wanted something that would be our tent and our ride at the same time since we wanted to have the freedom of sleeping anywhere we wanted. At first, I looked at campers, but I then settled for this 4×4 option since it would allow us to go on gravel roads easily. I’m so happy I chose the option!! I cannot recommend it enough. We booked this car with Camping Cars, a small business in Keflavik. Bogi, the owner, picked us up at the airport, gave us lots of ideas of where to go with tips about the roads. On top of it, the tent came with a super comfortable mattress and pillows. I definitely recommend his company! The only thing is that since it’s still a tent, it can get pretty cold at night so I would recommend bringing very warm sleeping bags with extra blankets. Xavier was kind enough to give me his sleeping bag for almost the entire trip because it was so much warmer than mine and I was freezing! He most definitely earned boyfriend points with that 😉

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Our first stop was the Krysuvik Geothermal Area, a stop suggested by Bogi. It was the first time I ever saw boiling hot springs and steaming volcanic vents, so I was really impressed by it. We were surprised by the strong sulfur smell all across the area. We kept joking that we went to Iceland for the fresh air and then we get this, haha!

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Iceland is known for its waterfalls, and now I understand why. The pictures seriously don’t do justice on how gorgeous those waterfalls are. The first one we saw is Seljalandfoss, close to Vik on the South coast of Iceland. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I will just let you take a look 🙂

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We then stopped at Skogafoss, which is very close to Seljalandsfoss. This one turned out to be my favorite waterfall because it’s possible to walk all the way to the top and the views are beautiful! The surroundings made me think a lot of The Lord of the Rings, which is my favorite film trilogy, so needless to say I loved the feeling of being in a similar environment! It was just one of those great moments of the trip. Although clearly Xavier was getting a little tired of the selfies…

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The last stop of the day was Dyrholaey, on the south coast right before Vik. I had read online that the views there were incredible at sunset so I made sure we got there right on time to see it. Needless to say it did not disappoint! The road to get there is quite tricky since it’s very steep, but Xavier got us there safe and sound, and we were rewarded with a majestic sunset. The pictures seriously don’t do it justice – I really recommend you go there if you ever go to Iceland. Funny enough, the rock formation really looks like the Rocher Percé in Quebec, so we kept joking that we could have just stayed home!! But seriously, that rock formation is massive and super impressive – it’s 120 meters high!

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We finished our day in Vik, where we camped for the night. We arrived at night, so our surroundings were a big surprise to us when we woke up. The town is beautiful with the church at the top, and it’s surrounded by cliffs, which gives it a very secluded feel. I really loved Vik and I kept daydreaming that if I had a cottage, I would want to have it there.

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Stay tuned for the next post about our trip to Iceland 🙂

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